6 months later, statuesque Rizzo speaks up | Stu Bykofsky

Columnist Stu Bykofsky interviews Frank Rizzo in front of the Municipal Services Building.

“Pssst, Stu. C’mere.”

I’m walking west on JFK, passing the Municipal Services Building, when I hear a familiar voice.

I pivot and swing my eyes east toward the Masonic Temple.

“Yo, Stu, up here!” the voice says.

I look up at the 1-ton, 10-foot bronze statue of Frank Rizzo standing on the steps to Thomas Paine Plaza outside the MSB.

“Frank? Is that you?”

“Well, it ain’t Thacher Longstreth, heh, heh. I always liked that bow-tied goofball,” says Rizzo.

“Last time we spoke, Mr. Mayor, you were alive.”

 

Camera icon Stu Bykofsky
A man takes a selfie with the controversial statue of Mayor Frank Rizzo.

“I was restin’ easy here since 1999, until that Helen Gym started howling about moving me,” says Rizzo. “That got me woke, heh, heh. They were supposed to make a decision about moving me. It’s been six months. What’s happening?”

“Nothing’s happened. The city sent out a news release saying it would take at least six months to figure it out, maybe longer.”

“I’ll tell you this, it would take me six minutes to make a decision, not six months,” Rizzo says. “He’s yellow. He’s gonna delay until after the election.”

“Could be, Frank.”

“I remember when Kenney was Jimmy,” says Rizzo. “Now he’s a timmy. He’s a wuss who quit the Mummers and moved out of South Philly.”

I nod, just to show I’m listening.

“His dad was a regular guy, a fireman,” says Rizzo. “I love firemen almost as much as cops. My brother was a fireman. I made him the fire commissioner.”

“Yes, I remember.”

Camera icon ED HILLE
“Government of the People” by Jacques Lipchitz.

Rizzo shakes his bronze head. “They want to take me down and leave that load of dumped plaster,” he says, hooking a thumb at Jacques Lipchitz’s Government of the People statue.

“I remember your art critique during the Bicentennial. About the same time you said we needed federal troops,” I say.

“After I died, Kenney co-sponsored a bill to name the MSB after me, the whole damn building! What does he know about me now that he didn’t know then?” Rizzo asks.

“Some people say you’re a racist.”

“I had two black bodyguards. I got blacks jobs. Washington owned slaves. Are they moving his big-ass statue in Eakins Oval? Franklin owned slaves. Are they renaming the Parkway? Penn owned slaves. Are they taking him offa City Hall? I never owned no slaves.”

“Fair point, Frank.”

“It’s insultin’. Every so often, some crumb-bum comes along and puts a pink bikini on me, or a hood on my head. Some crim’nal spray-paints me, I am public prop’ty, and the DA lets him off with no fine, no time.”

“It’s a different world, your honor. Kenney decided to relocate you. Where would you prefer to go — Rosewood Street, where you were born? The Roundhouse, because you were a cop so long?”

Camera icon Avi Steinhardt
Dana Witengier (left) and fellow Black Lives Matter member Asa Khalif protest after placing a Klansman hood atop the head of the Frank Rizzo statue in 2016.

“They’re closing the Roundhouse and moving P’lice Headquarters to where you usta work — 400 North Broad,” says Rizzo. “What Einstein thought that up?”

I say, “Think of it, Mr. Mayor — your statue outside the old Tower of Truth.”

“One of your reporters in the Tower of Truth wrote that I’m giving the fascist salute. What a jabroni,” Rizzo says.

“We got some gems,” I say. “So where would you like to wind up?”

“I’m from South Philly. Put me in Columbus Park where the statue of Christopher Columbus used to be,” says Rizzo.

“Used to be? It’s still there,” I say.

“Just give that Helen Gym enough time, heh, heh. And tell George Washington to watch his back.”